It was reported a few days ago that Israel had agreed to return the bodies of some 130 terrorists to the land that fed their rage and nurtured their homicidal impulses – the Palestinian Authority. A joint statement issued by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molcho invoked the chimera of peace to defend this controversial decision:

Israel and the Palestinian Authority are committed to achieving peace…

And so we plunge through the rabbit hole into the fantasy world of Middle Eastern peace talks. A fanciful mental illusion at best, this confidence-building measure delivered the bodies of mass murderers to the current capital of the Palestinian people, Ramallah. Here’s a partial list of some these shahids’ greatest hits:

Seven Israelis killed at Cafe Hillel in Jerusalem

Eighteen people killed on the Jerusalem No. 2 bus

Sixteen Israelis killed in Beersheba

Taking over the Savoy Hotel in Tel Aviv in 1975

Lest the eternally compassionate among you hold hard and fast to the belief that these dark episodes were spasmodic outbursts of a once-unenlightened Palestinian society, the PA celebrated the return of their home-grown butchers in grand style. The Palestinian Authority held a military funeral for all 91 of their “martyrs,” complete with flag-draped caskets and the firing of rifle volleys.

The aftermath of the Cafe Hillel suicide bombing on September 9, 2003 (photo credit: Flash90)

The aftermath of the Cafe Hillel suicide bombing on September 9, 2003 (photo credit: Flash90)

In attendance, along with the families of the homicide bombers, was the international poster boy for Palestinian moderation, PA President Abbas. This was followed by PA Minister of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Issa Qaraqe’s call on all good, peace loving Palestinians to celebrate the return of the “martyrs” to their families.

To angrily wag a finger at Mr. Abbas, the man who once described the Holocaust as “a Zionist fantasy, the fantastic lie that six million Jews were killed,” may be satisfying on a visceral level, but it actually muddies the waters of cool, reasoned analysis.  And besides, as Degas told Papillon, “Blame is for God and small children.”

The sad fact is that while successive Israeli administrations have been hell-bent on marching toward a much-anticipated détente with the Palestinian Authority, the Jewish State will never achieve a true, comprehensive peace with any of its neighbors until it clearly defines what peace is.

And peace is not a cease fire.

The diplomatic chill between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is not a bump on the long, inevitable road to a peace treaty. Rather, it’s the latest skirmish between two sides that are in the middle of temporary stoppage of war.

The incessant media coverage and breathtakingly long list of UN resolutions concerning Israel may give the impression that there’s something singular about the country’s relationship with its neighbors. And as a result of this uniqueness, a brand new definition of peaceful coexistence needs to be developed and applied solely to Israel.

While Israel is exceptional by virtue of its Jewish history, unique birth, values, and how it has succeeded so well in running its affairs in a landscape dotted with outposts of tyranny, the country’s geo-political situation vis-à-vis its neighbors is not unique. In fact, it’s rather mundane.

The world we live in is replete with nations coexisting uneasily side by side. The Simla Agreement that followed the war between India and Pakistan converted the 1949 UN “Cease-fire Line” into the Line of Control (LOC) between the two nations. The Simla Agreement did not result in “painful compromises” for peace that would have meant the loss of Indian control over the state of Jammu and Kashmir or Pakistani loss of sovereignty over Azad Kashmir and Gilgit–Baltistan.

Similarly, a ceasefire agreement exists between the Provisional IRA and the United Kingdom: the Good Friday Agreement aimed to end the violence of in Northern Ireland and establish new Irish political institutions. Other parts of the agreement concerned the release of prisoners and the giving up of weapons. Northern Ireland, however, was not granted independence, and remains a part of the UK.

Then there are the many ceasefires that have been declared and broken between Spain and its oppressed Basque population. Greater Basque Country and Madrid may well agree to a two-state solution at some point, but for the foreseeable future it appears that the Spanish government will continue to rebuff the ETA’s demands. In fact, it recently called for the separatist group to disband.

For Israel to stabilize its borders and protect the lives of its citizens, it must make peace with the fact that there is currently one party missing from the negotiating table. In a time and place dominated by a corrupt, unaccountable PA, it’s the Palestinian people who will ultimately have to fight for the political liberalization of their society. A true peace is one that includes not just an absence of hostilities but harmonious relations characterized by trade, jobs and investment.

In order for peace to have a chance, there must emerge in the areas of the Palestinian Authority an open society governed by leaders who are beholden to their citizens. Until then, Israel must come to terms with the “slow death of Palestinian democracy” and deal with this reality accordingly.

Fifty years ago, an Israeli court found Adolf Eichmann guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes. He was executed by hanging in 1962. Going forward, Israel should deal in a similar fashion with captured terrorists. Ultimately, the return of the bodies of the terrorists to the Palestinian Authority only served to guarantee the next terrorist act — and not the cause of peace.

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